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Cover 3: What we learned at NFL Combine

Three writers give their takeaways from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine:

John Schmeelk: I will focus on the things Paul Dottino and I heard from the reporters we had on Big Blue Kickoff Live and those we spoke to off-mic in Indianapolis. There's a lot we don't know about what is going to happen at the top of the draft. It appears to be very fluid. We couldn't find anyone who said the Bengals won't take Joe Burrow. Don't carve that in stone, but feel confident you won't have to erase in pencil.

Depending on who you talk to, the Redskins are taking Chase Young, considering Tua Tagovailoa, or are pumping up their interest in Tagovailoa to garner a trade down. It's important to remember that this Redskins regime did not select Dwayne Haskins. Those three scenarios appear to be what's on the table for the Redskins.

As for the Lions, the consensus from the media is they are open to trading down if a quarterback-needy team wants to move up, unless Chase Young is there. The caveat is they would not move down far enough to lose out on a premium defensive player. If they stay put and Chase Young is gone, Jeffrey Okudah is mentioned as a likely target.

When you talk to people covering the teams that select behind the Giants and might be in need of a quarterback, here's the scuttlebutt from Indianapolis.

Pick 5, Miami Dolphins: The Miami Herald reported over the weekend the Dolphins are big fans of Jordan Love and would like to avoid using their plentiful draft capital to move up to draft a quarterback. Todd McShay bet Mel Kiper $5,000 for charity on live television that Love would be the third quarterback taken in April.

Pick 6, Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargers hierarchy were adamant last week they were willing to have Tyrod Taylor be their starter this season. Otherwise, Chargers rumors were scant, other than they could address their quarterback situation in free agency or the draft.

Pick 7, Carolina Panthers: Head coach Matt Rhule said he "absolutely" wanted Cam Newton on his roster in September, but The Athletic's Jourdan Rodrigue indicated in her Monday story the Panthers could pursue a quarterback in free agency or the draft.

To sum it all up, it is still very early and no one has any idea what is going to happen. Perhaps free agency will bring more clarity? Only one thing is for certain: there is a long way to go for all the questions surrounding this offseason.

Dan Salomone: Position-less is no longer a pejorative term. In fact, prospects use it as a selling point.

There was a time when NFL teams had a simple solution for players who were in between positions; they didn't draft them. The assumption was if a player is a jack-of-all-trades, then he is a master of none. Now, it is known as versatility, which was the most common word you heard as more than 300 prospects took the interview podium in Indianapolis.

"Being versatile, a lot of teams say they don't even scout for defensive tackles or nose guards anymore; they scout for D-linemen. They want to find guys that can play the positions across the board," said Auburn's Derrick Brown, the No. 2 overall prospect in Daniel Jeremiah's rankings.

"I want to be able to be versatile and play multiple positions and to be better at all those positions," said Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, ranked No. 23 overall by Jeremiah.

"Just the versatility I had at school, being able to do different things at different positions, at different times of the game, I think that will help me in the league," said Alabama defensive back Xavier McKinney, ranked No. 14. "I think just being able to do that will show coaches that I am able to do that at a high level. I think that will help me succeed in the league."

And then there was Mr. Versatility.

Clemson's Isaiah Simmons, a consensus top-five pick in mock drafts, played at least 100 snaps at five different positions this past year: 299 at inside linebacker, 262 at slot cornerback, 132 at free safety, 116 at outside linebacker, and 100 at strong safety.

"I think it's really beneficial for me," said Simmons, who played every position but defensive tackle. "I know years ago it wasn't good to be a position-less guy. But now it's become a benefit for me just because of all the versatility I'll be able to do, play linebacker, play safety, whatever it is, I feel like it just helps me out."

At his introductory press conference, Giants coach Joe Judge said, "Our philosophy is going to be to put pressure on the opponent to prepare for multiple things." The Tigers did just that by lining up Simmons all over the field, and their record speaks for itself.

Must-see photos from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Lance Medow: If the combine is used as a complementary piece to the regular season puzzle and to confirm initial thoughts, then it is crystal clear there is plenty of depth at wide receiver and the offensive line in the 2020 class. Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton stood out by running a 5.10 40-yard dash. He's quite the presence at 6-7, 350 pounds, but he's clearly an athlete. Iowa's Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas of Georgia and Alabama's Jedrick Wills didn't disappoint with their performances. "Blazing speed" is best way to describe the wide receiver group. Alabama's Henry Ruggs nearly broke John Ross' record (Bengals' 2017 draft class) of 4.22 with a 4.27 40-yard dash. Justin Jefferson of LSU, Baylor's Denzel Mims and Case Claypool of Notre Dame stood out as they literally and figuratively separated themselves from the pack.

If you didn't realize how athletic and versatile Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons is, you now know. He stole the show not just within his position group but the entire combine as he posted a 4.39 40-yard dash. Simmons lined up across the field in college. He played over 100 snaps at five different positions. There's no question he has a unique skillset, but whoever selects him is going to need a specific plan for how they want to utilize his skillset. Speaking of defensive playmakers, the other name is Ohio State corner Jeff Okudah. While there's plenty of chatter, and deservedly so, surrounding his teammate, pass rusher Chase Young, Okudah has the size, length and resume that will be appealing to teams looking to bolster their secondaries. 

The other big takeaway regarding both Simmons and Okudah is neither lacks confidence. When Simmons met with the media at the combine and was asked what position he plays, his response: "defense." Okudah didn't hold back, either. When a reporter mentioned he had a tendency to play sloppy at times, meaning picking up penalties, Okudah's response: "I had zero pass interferences, zero holdings, so put on the tape again. I think you'll see something else." If that type of confidence and moxie translates to the field, watch out.


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